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Rollicking Reads: Benjamin Stevenson on funny books to read over the holidays

December 19, 2018

About the author:

Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. He has sold out shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10, and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. Greenlight is his first novel.

Purchase a copy of Greenlight here 

Read our full review of Greenlight here 

Writing is hard. Writing comedy is even harder. On stage, as stand-up comedian, it can be quite easy to highlight moments specific to the crowd in the audience, you’re growing on a shared experience and building the energy of the room, alongside pre-prepared material. Comedic writing faces a sole reader with a blank page – and for a long time I had an aversion to novels that described themselves as ‘funny’. But I was just being a curmudgeon – here are my top funny novels that definitely shouldn’t be read on public transport, in case people think you are a little bit weird laughing to yourself:

THE SELLOUT, Paul Beatty

An extraordinary comic novel in which a black man in Los Angeles is taken to the supreme court for his efforts to reintroduce racial segregation and keep his own slave. Not only a biting satire, eviscerating our modern world on issues of race, but also beautifully written and achingly funny. Some passages – including the multi-page rant about how you only see white people on Car advertisements – read like fully fledged stand-up club material. This book will stun you.

THE ROSIE PROJECT, Graeme Simsion

Genetics professor Don Tillman is one of the literary comic creations of the last decade in Australia. A rollicking feel-good love story mixed with lashings of unique quirkiness – Don will charm you and tickle your ribs at the same time.

THE EYRE AFFAIR, Jasper Forde

Taking a love of literature and a crime caper and mashing them together in which Thursday Next must find Jane Eyre – who’s been kidnapped from the pages of her very own book – by literally entering into the pages of the book itself, this quirky post-modern novel is filled with laugh out loud moments, and also enough jokes about literature so you can pat yourself on the back and feel clever afterwards.

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE, Douglas Adams

I wasn’t going to put this on here because I thought it would be cliche. And then I picked it up and read the first few pages again and… let’s just say I have no choice. Douglas Adams is a fierce wit and his writing is brilliantly humourous at every turn.

THE BUS ON THURSDAY, Shirley Barrett

Blackly comedic, this one’s only just hitting shelves. Shirley’s publisher describes it as ‘Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist’. I’ll describe it as wild, crazy, comedy horror. It’s actually almost indescribable. If you like movies like CABIN IN THE WOODS or David Lynch, strap in.

Andy Griffiths, with illustrations by Terry Denton: THE ‘JUST’ SERIES

Look, I know it’s a list for novels. And I know I only get 5… BUT comedy is all about changing the norm! What child born in Australia, practically ever, doesn’t read the hilarious Andy Griffiths. There’s too many to of his books to choose from, but I read these short-story collections as a kid and oh man, did I laugh my head off. Andy is great at mixing all the goopy gory filthy stuff kids love and delivering great storytelling all the same (and making sure it’s not too goopy gory or filthy for the parents to approve!). Mix with Terry Denton’s wild illustrations – which are energetic and off-the-wall – and you have a comic series of novel that’s earned it’s place on my fiction list.

RUNNERS UP:

I loved the sheer wit and exuberance of Mark Watney in Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN. And the comic-cadence of the writing in WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler. Both these books aren’t strictly comedy, their main narrative is tied to other genres (sci-fi/contemporary drama) but are still worth mentioning for comic-writing of the finest order.

Oh, and finally, my novel GREENLIGHT – which isn’t funny at all so I couldn’t find a way to shoehorn it into this list, but still worth a read (I reckon).


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